Creating an Overall Theme for Your Yard

Brad Smith
Written By Brad Smith

What does your yard say about you? That is the question facing many homeowners who want to keep their property looking beautiful while creating a space for activities and socialization. A yard is a space where children can play, families can gather, and guests can congregate to enjoy each other’s company. If you plan to spend any amount of time outside of your home, then it is worth putting some thought into how it will look.

Designing an outdoor space presents a unique challenge as well as an opportunity. You are not limited by as many factors as you are inside, (unless you have a very small yard). But even the tightest dimensions are a blank canvas for your creativity and can be used to foster a welcoming environment.

You can take a step beyond simply making the yard look nice by choosing an overall theme for your home’s exterior. Below are a few ideas for themes that you can try and how to use them to unify your entire yard under a singular vision.

Themes to Try

In reality, the number of available themes is endless since you can create your own based on personal taste and style. But if you are searching for some inspiration on how to unite the different elements of your yard together, here are a few popular ideas.

Japanese Garden

This theme is the definition of a relaxing and calming space. Sculpted shrubbery that is often round, stone footpaths, bamboo-based elements for furniture and garden features, and natural rocky formations can be used across your yard to carry this theme throughout the whole property.

English Cottage

Are you hoping to evoke feelings of a classic English setting in the country? Low stone walls and fences surrounding the garden and/or yard are a great start. Cobble pavers can really enhance that cottage feel, as well as simple wooden pergolas that incorporate climbing plants over your patio. 


If you dream of oceanside living, then you can bring it into your backyard. Fun features like boat dock posts, lighthouse decor, small trees/large shrubs in planters, wooden furniture with colorful cushions, rope fences, and white gravel can create the nautical feel you are hoping for.

For the Outdoor Living Space

Outdoor living spaces, which are rising in popularity, are essentially another room of the house, but out in the fresh air. They can be very cozy for your family and guests to relax in, and depending on the features you select, can go along with your chosen theme quite well. The most important features to align with your theme are the furniture sets, lighting method, floor material, and the various decor. Since these are the visible elements of the outdoor living space, their form will determine if they align with your chosen theme or not. 

For a nautical theme, you would want bold blue colors that evoke the sense of looking out at the ocean. For the Japanese garden concept, bamboo furniture and a pergola of similar material can complement the rest of the yard.

The more features you incorporate into the living space that aligns with the theme, the better it will reflect your overall vision and unite the yard.

For the Garden

The garden is another key aspect of your yard that can enhance your chosen theme. What plants will you choose and how do they fit with that theme? Should the layout of the garden be organized and follow straight lines or should it be more natural-looking for the English cottage theme to work? Will you use light-colored gravel to evoke the nautical theme in your garden or will you find mulch suppliers nearby to use as a top layer for the base? What kind of pathway through the garden will further the chosen theme?

There are many ways to use a garden to unify it with your chosen theme for the rest of the home’s exterior. Do some research about the concept you have chosen to see how others have incorporated it into their designs. 

For the Lawn

The open areas of your yard are important as well for following your theme. You can use pathways that align with the concept to border or cut through the lawn and continue the atmosphere throughout the yard. Do you have a fence or other border around the property that can incorporate decorative elements? Could a trickling fountain serve as a centerpiece on the lawn to follow the Japanese garden choice? Even the lines you follow to mow can be a creative choice, with straight paths back and forth across the lawn or swooping circles to accentuate the borders of a garden or pathway. 

How Focused is Your Theme?

You can choose to fully incorporate a theme into your entire yard or just have a few elements to invoke a subtle feeling. It all depends on how many features focus on that particular concept throughout your yard. If you want guests to feel like they are relaxing in the English countryside, then you will have to include as many features as possible. If you just want to create a light sense of being by the ocean, a few blue cushions and some white gravel could do the trick.

Make up your own theme if you want that fully reflects your sense of style. An overall theme is a great way to create a welcoming outdoor space for all who pass through your door, so get started on uniting your yard under a common vision.

smith brad omni

Written by Brad Smith

CEO & Lead Interior Designer

Brad Smith is an experienced interior designer and the founder of With a Master's degree in Interior Design from Pratt Institute and a passion for creating safe and healthy living spaces, Brad shares his expert insights and innovative design ideas with our readers. His work is driven by the belief that home is where every story begins.